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Busting The Myth That Flexible Working Is Just For Mums

Alex Morley, dad to two under-sixes, and Chartered Ergonomist and Human Factors Specialist, shares his experience of flexible working. Describing himself as “probably one of the strongest advocates for it that you’ll ever meet,” he describes how flexible working has been absolutely essential to maintaining a happy family and healthy work-life balance.

New dad on board
I joined Atkins as a new father, when our daughter was just 4 months old. Arriving as an experienced consultant to a range of international clients, my wife and I fully appreciated how demanding my role would be. In short, we were under no illusion about the fact that I wouldn’t always be getting back from work in time to help with bath time.

Missing that quality time
Neither of us were prepared for how much having a child would change our outlook on life and I soon started to feel that I was missing out on quality time with my daughter. We live over 200 miles from both sets of grandparents, so family-based childcare had never been an option, meaning I also started to struggle with the concept of having my daughter in nursery five days a week with ‘strangers’ bringing her up pretty much full-time.

Flexible options
On a business trip away, I found myself chatting to my line manager over a pint. I’d been thinking about moving to part time working — my wife was about to return to work, so juggling child-care was about to get even more tricky. I bounced the idea off him and he said I’d have his full support. However, he added, I might want to consider something new… He went on to explain that the company was introducing an official set of flexible working options, which might allow me to spend more time with my daughter, while still receiving a full-time wage. Needless to say, this seemed like a brilliant idea. I settled on the option of working a nine-day fortnight, where I would compress ten days’ worth of work into nine working days, giving me one day off every two weeks.

How we balance work and parenting
When I went over the idea with my wife, she agreed that this would work excellently, especially if she could arrange something similar. We both often worked extra hours in the evening anyway, so fitting the work in would not be a problem. My wife brought the idea up with her boss at their next meeting, and she agreed to give it a try too. Suddenly we had a solution to our concerns; both of us could work nine-day fortnights, taking opposing Mondays off to spend with our daughter, while both still receiving a full-time salary!
 
And now for Daddy Monday
Nothing could have prepared me for my first full ‘Daddy Monday’, as they became known. There I was, all alone with a 14 month old for 10 hours straight — how can someone so small need so much work?! Fortunately, not only did it gradually get easier, but these became the days I looked forward to the most! Being able to spend so much time together during those early, formative years has helped create a fantastic bond between my daughter and me, and it’s been awesome to see the same happen between her and my wife. What’s even better is that we’re now able to continue this flexible work approach with our son, and I’m absolutely loving every Monday I get with him too!
 
Flexibility when life is unpredictable
We’ve combined this fortnightly flexible working approach with various other flexible options, including purchasing more annual leave to allow us to be present parents during the frequent and long school holidays. I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve had to nip home to look after my son when he’s come down with one of the dreaded bugs from nursery. Thanks to our flexible approach, my team is understanding and supportive, allowing me to make up the time elsewhere within the week.

Trusted and valued
What I find most refreshing about the flexible working opportunity at Atkins, is that it hasn’t hindered my progress within the company at all. Having senior leaders in our business who have a similar approach to work really helps to build a culture of understanding around work-life balance and I’ve found myself progressing well within the company. Not only that, but I feel motivated by not only the interesting work and brilliant team that I’m involved with, but also by my loyalty to a company which has shown true trust and value in my work.